Food Issue - Around the world: India

Specific spice at Amma Kitchen

Thursday October 21, 2010 04:00 am EDT

Amma Kitchen's dining room sits mainly bare apart from its tables and chairs. The counter, with its menu above head and pickup window alongside, is as utilitarian as they come. But the restaurant, which is owned by a Brahmin priest and his family, often fills up with members of the nearby Hindu meditation center. The bustle of folks in traditional robes, chatting happily in Hindi, combined with the very specific cuisine, makes eating here an experience you can't get in any old Indian restaurant.

In the U.S., Indian food is usually divided into the broad definitions of northern and southern cuisines, which often breaks down into meaty curries and vegetarian curries, respectively. The food of Amma Kitchen is way more distinct, with cuisine from India's southern coast state of Andhra Pradesh. Vegetarian curries and sauces include a few versions using peanuts — a common ingredient given its prevalence in Andhra Pradesh. But the don't-miss dish here is the pesarattu, a dosa made with mung bean flour that gives the batter and resulting pancake a green hue. Served with peanut chutney and topped with onions, green chilies and ginger, the crispy doughy dish is irresistible, and not something easily found elsewhere.

You may notice containers of something stacked up on the counter behind the cash register — these are homemade pickle, and absolutely worth the $5 to take home. Lemon pickle is fragrant and intense, and the spicy mango pickle works to perk up almost any rice and veggie meal.

Amma Kitchen's starkness of décor and lighting becomes infinitely warmer when the room is bustling with people, thali plates are coming out of the window, and the smells of Andhra Pradesh fill the air.

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